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Low-Income Fourth Graders Lagging Behind Peers in Reading Scores


Utah Fourth Graders are all improving their reading scores, but child advocacy group Voices for Utah Children notes that over the past decade, fourth graders who come from low-income families have not improved as quickly as their peers. 

According to a report released Tuesday by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, from 2003 to 2013 the gap between reading scores from low income children and upper income children increased by 22 percent – meaning kids from higher income households are improving at a faster rate.

Terry Haven is Deputy Director of Voices for Utah Children. She says low income kids are coming to school less-prepared than their peers.

“So many things are involved in why a child does well in school. We know that it’s important to ensure that families are economically stable, that they’re emotionally healthy and that they’re actively engaged in their children’s learning. For those families who are struggling economically, it’s hard for them to be actively involved in their child’s education.”

Mark Peterson with the state office of education says 4th grade reading scores could use some work, but the achievement gap in 8th grade reading is fairing a little better.

“We’ve got students who aren’t really prepared for school in Kindergarten or first or second grade, but by the time we get a chance to work with them a little more we can bring them up to speed.”

Terry Haven says increasing the availability of preschool programs would help many of these kids improve those scores. There are proposals in the works this legislative session to do that. 

Whittney Evans grew up southern Ohio and has worked in public radio since 2005. She has a communications degree from Morehead State University in Morehead, Kentucky, where she learned the ropes of reporting, producing and hosting. Whittney moved to Utah in 2009 where she became a reporter, producer and morning host at KCPW. Her reporting ranges from the hyper-local issues affecting Salt Lake City residents, to state-wide issues of national interest. Outside of work, she enjoys playing the guitar and getting to know the breathtaking landscape of the Mountain West.
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